We are all engaged on a journey to achieve excellence in our industries, whether automotive, consumer goods, renewable energy or construction. Effective project management is a crucial enabler of this journey. The aim must be to provide our project managers with simple processes that they can rigorously and consistently apply to produce predictable results.
Project Management is the dynamic process that utilises the appropriate resources of the organisation in a controlled and structured manner to achieve some clearly defined objectives identified as strategic needs. It is always conducted within a defined set of constraints. 1
Learn with this book, written in a question-and-answer style, containing 21 pieces of valuable advice for making your projects successful.
In the modern sense, project management began in the 1950s, although it has its roots back in the latter years of the 19th century. The driver for the development of project management was companies realising the benefits of organising work around projects and the critical need to communicate and coordinate work across departments and professions.
One of the forefathers of project management is still a familiar name today, Henry Gantt (1861-1919), the creator of the Gantt chart. Still in use more than one hundred years after their creation, Gantt charts are one of the project managers' most valuable planning tools.
In the mid-20th century, PERT charts emerged, complex network diagrams showing a project's critical path. Soon after, the United States Department of Defense created the Work Breakdown Structure, which breaks projects into manageable pieces. These and other tools and techniques quickly spread as companies looked for new ways to manage large and complex activities, evolving into project management as we know it today.
It is more than seventy years since the birth of project management, and much of the early work has been collected and brought together into formal methodologies. Although many different methodologies exist, they all work with the same basic principles and good practice. You may expect we are experts in running projects, but all these years on and project failures are still with us, increasing in number according to some observers.
The Garden Bridge in London made headlines in the UK as a failed vanity project pushed by Boris Johnson when he was the Mayor of London. According to a report, the bridge was overly optimistic about the fundraising possible and the final cost. This optimism led to a shortfall that could not be closed, despite surveying work on the riverbed already underway. The project was officially abandoned in August 2017, costing £53.5m in total, despite never being built.
Another high-profile UK project failure was the NHS's Civilian IT Project. The project to revolutionise the NHS IT systems failed and cost the taxpayer nearly £10bn. The project's politically motivated and top-down nature meant that scope creep and a complete underestimation of the requirements doomed this project from the outset. The UK government was heavily criticised for its inability to handle large IT contracts.
Projects go wrong for the same reasons all the time. There are no new sins. We can look at a project in its first two months and know if it will be a success or not. Many organisations are failing to heed painful lessons learned from past projects. 2
The biggest sin in project management is not learning the lessons of past projects. We will cut the number of project failures when consistently practising a lessons-learned approach in our project processes.
What follows is a practical guide to managing projects that will help steer you to a successful outcome.
1 Trevor L. Young, How to Be a Better Project Manager (London: Kogan Page Limited, 1998), 16.
2 Nick Dean, Managing Director of Professional Values.
21 pieces of valuable advice for making your projects a success.
Question 2: Have you defined and understood the business objectives and benefits?